Advertisement
Share

Rotarians honor local veterans at La Jolla lunch

Honor Flight San Diego's Holly Shaffner (standing) introduces Roberta “Randy” Tidmore, a "Rosie the Riveter" in World War II.
Honor Flight San Diego public relations director Holly Shaffner (standing) introduces Roberta “Randy” Tidmore, a “Rosie the Riveter” who made airplane parts during World War II.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Former service members and others who served the country during World War II and the Korean War were among the guests during the Torrey Pines Rotary Club’s annual veterans appreciation event Nov. 9 at the Sheraton La Jolla Hotel.

Ruth Gunther, a member of the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II, was hailed as the “queen of the room.” The 102-year-old has written two books and hosts a podcast.

Other notable guests included Roberta “Randy” Tidmore, who joined the war effort with her friends in the 1940s as “Rosie the Riveters,” making airplane parts; and David Stanley, who served in the Korean War as a scout, a machine gunner and an escort for new service members.

The Torrey Pines Rotary Club selects one meeting a year to honor veterans and often features a military-related speaker. This year’s event was two days before Veterans Day.

People gather at the Torrey Pines Rotary Club's veterans appreciation event Nov. 9 at the Sheraton La Jolla Hotel.
Rotarians and military veterans gather at the Torrey Pines Rotary Club’s veterans appreciation event Nov. 9 at the Sheraton La Jolla Hotel.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The speaker for this luncheon was Holly Shaffner, public relations director for Honor Flight San Diego. During an Honor Flight, military veterans who served in World War II or the Korean War or have a terminal illness are flown to Baltimore and treated to a dinner and a tour of the war memorials in and around Washington, D.C. The trip is at no cost to the participants.

“It’s a whirlwind experience — it’s 72 hours from when we arrive at the airport to when we get back,” Shaffner said. “But it is much more than that. It’s more than visiting the memorials, getting your hand shook and being thanked for their service. We think of it as a life changer and a life extender. I know that sounds big, but it is.”

She shared a story of a veteran who was struggling with his grief after the recent death of his wife. After going on his Honor Flight, he “got a pep in his step” and got involved with the organization, Shaffner said.

The Honor Flight also features a “mail call” during which the participants open letters from local schools, service groups and volunteers.

During the “homecoming,” when the Honor Flight returns, hundreds of volunteers gather to welcome the veterans. “[Volunteers] wave the American flag, there is music playing and they are truly getting the homecoming they didn’t get when they returned from service. We tell people to bring tissues because it is an emotional experience.”

La Jollan Max Gurney (in wheelchair) returns home from an Honor Flight last year.
La Jollan Max Gurney (in wheelchair) returns home from an Honor Flight last year.
(Provided by Lizzy Simas)

Shaffner said Honor Flight San Diego was recently expanded to include Vietnam War veterans.

“For 12 years we have been taking World War II and Korean War veterans, and now just this fall, we opened it up to Vietnam veterans,” she said. “Our first flight was about six weeks ago, and we went with a very unique elite squadron from the Vietnam War, the Navy HAL-3 Seawolves.”

The Seawolves oversaw river operations during the war.

“They are the most decorated naval unit of the Vietnam War; they are still the most decorated unit in naval aviation history … so we took them first,” Shaffner said.

Eighty-five people were on the first Honor Flight to include Vietnam veterans, and 95 were on the second flight a month later.

Honor Flight San Diego was founded in 2010 and is one of 130 hubs across the country. It is run by volunteers and donations; Shaffner said Honor Flight receives no government funding.

Learn more at honorflightsandiego.org. ◆